“An Invitation”

Jan 15, 2023

The Scripture

John 1:29-42

29 The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32 And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

35 The next day John (John the Baptist)again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).

The Sermon

The season of Advent and Christmas offered us this amazing invitation to join together and enter into this mystery and celebration of the birth of Jesus. But Scripture does not let us linger long at the manger. Though it is comfortable there, peaceful, and holy, a place where not much is asked of us except to ponder and accept the gift given to us, we are now, today prompted to move forward. In scripture we find no stories of a baby growing up into a toddler, no childhood escapades. No, we do not linger at the manger, scripture moves us quickly forward where Jesus in now an adult. He is a full grown man, a man who from the start of his ministry is known by many names with varied descriptions; all these descriptions continue to expand and explore the fullness of just who he is and what he means to our lives.

John the Baptist paved the way for Jesus, it’s like he was saying something big is coming, get ready, you don’t want to miss this! Just a few verses earlier in the first chapter of John is says, “John came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” John began what many throughout the years have continued, being a witness to the light so others will believe. With John the Baptist’s prompting, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother start following Jesus. Later Simon joined. Jesus said to them “what are you looking for?” What a great question “what are you looking for?” Something was going on here, something inside of them moved them to seek something that was beyond themselves, a void that needed to be filled, a hope that needed to be inflamed. Jesus offered them an invitation to discover what they were looking for even if they didn’t know what it was their hearts desired. Jesus offered them an invitation to be awakened to their calling.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day, a pastor, a theologian, an activist, he was one who accepted the invitation given to him. Richard Rohr in his weekly meditation reflects on this “Call to Awakening,” that included Martin Luther King Jr. He said this,

History is continually graced with people who somehow learned to act beyond and outside their self-interest and for the good of the world, people who clearly operated by a power larger than their own. Consider Gandhi, Oskar Schindler, Martin Luther King Jr. Add to them Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Dorothy Day, Óscar Romero, César Chávez, and many unsung leaders. Their inspiring witness offers us strong evidence that the mind of Christ still inhabits the world. Most of us are fortunate to have crossed paths with many lesser-known persons who exhibit the same presence. I can’t say how one becomes such a person. All I can presume is that they were all called. They all had their Christ moments, in which they stopped denying their own shadows, stopped projecting those shadows elsewhere, and agreed to own their deepest identity in solidarity with the world. 

They all had their Christ moments. I wonder what it looks like to have a “Christ moment”, I mean what does it look like in one’s life? I’ve been thinking about these amazing people and doubt it was just one Christ moment that changed everything but rather one Christ moment built on another Christ moment, leading to another Christ moment, learning to follow the light through all that life gave them. I say this because of the reality of what these spiritual leaders faced. Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested 5 times and put in Alabama jails. His home was bombed twice, he received multiple death threats. What challenges he faced! King is quoted as saying this. “I must admit that at times I have felt that I could no longer bear such a heavy burden and have been tempted to retreat to a more quiet and serene life. But every time such a temptation appeared, something came to strengthen and sustain my determination.”  Is it not the light of Jesus pointing always to the living God that strengthened and sustained him? Martin Luther King Jr accepted heard God’s calling and accepted the invitation. And he has become a witness to you and me. On the night before King was assassinated, he preached these words,

Like anybody I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

These are powerful words and at the same time humbling words. “I just want to do God’s will”, he said. It all goes back to the first question Jesus asked those disciples, what are you looking for? If you answer is to do God’s will then the invitation is there for you too. Richard Rohr sums up this calling by saying this, “Those who respond to the call and agree to carry and love what God loves—which is both the good and the bad—and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves, these are the followers of Jesus Christ. They are the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God uses to transform the world.”

We have an opportunity to accept the invitation to have our own Christ moments right here and right now and, in the months, ahead as we seek to follow God’s will in the life of our church. We can be a witness by living through our personal and collective grief and sadness, trusting that that there is a plan beyond our understanding. We can be a witness to others by staying faithful to the journey set before us, believing that out of what seems like death comes new life. We can be the people who learn to see beyond and outside our own self-interest and strive for the good of others working with God to transform the world. We can, the invitation is there! Amen